When Andy Murray took on Roger Federer in last year’s Wimbledon final the majority of the crowd in attendance wanted him to win. But they didn’t will him to do it. Not like they did for poor Tim Henman. They loved Tim. He just wasn’t as good as they believed he was. Or at least as they wanted him to be.
Andy Murray is better. In fact he’s considerably better and he has been proving it for years.
Even before last year’s watershed moment, literally and figuratively, the 25-year old Murray had amassed 23 singles titles. Henman managed only eleven over his entire career. Murray had been to three Grand Slam finals. Henman never made it beyond the last four.
Henman was just far more likeable. Murray’s success wasn’t enough to make up for his often dower appearance and misinterpreted interviews. That was then.
One year on and the situation has changed, if not dramatically then at at least considerably. When Murray broke down in tears following his Wimbledon 2012 final loss to Roger Federer he showed a vulnerable, human side which had never been on display before. As the popularity of reality singing contests proves the public loves to see other people cry.
The home support for Murray that day was muted in comparison to that enjoyed with regularity by Tim Henman. However, when he returned to the same venue for the Olympic tennis final to again take on Federer there was electricity in the air. The fans didn’t just want him to win but they willed him to do it. And he did. Albeit against a less than spectacular Federer but that didn’t matter. The bond created between the centre court fans and Murray when he cried there a month before was strengthened.
This elevated support could be what makes the difference this year. The fates have certainly been in Murray’s favour so far with both Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer falling foul to shock early exits. He has advanced to the fourth round with relative ease, yet to drop a set. He now appears to have a straight run to the final where he’s on course to meet world number one Novak Djokovic.
The pair have met in three Grand Slam finals already with Djokovic winning the 2011 and 2013 Australian Open finals and Murray beating the Serb to lift his first Grand Slam title, the 2012 Us Open.
Djokovic leads the career head-to-heads 11-7 but Murray has won their only previous meeting on grass. A two sets win on his way to Olympic gold last summer.
Barring a shock result a Murray-Djokovic is looking more certain every round. There won’t be much in the betting with Djokovic likely to be a narrow favorite, as he currently is in the outright betting.
If Murray makes it to the final then we will see an atmosphere the likes of which Henman never got to enjoy. A heady mixture of hope and expectation. With the crowd fully behind him and a steelier confidence earned by winning the Olympic and US Open titles he will be hard to stop. Murray could be the first British male winner of Wimbledon since Fred Perry 1936.
When the nostalgic history books are written in years to come, how important will his tears following the 2012 Wimbledon final look then?